Alabama’s Young, Anderson, Gibbs, Branch declare for draft

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Bryce Young won the Heisman Trophy and Will Anderson is a two-time winner of the Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s top defensive player.

Now, Alabama’s two biggest stars are headed to the NFL, where teams can take up the debate over which one is the best – or most needed.

Alabama’s poised and playmaking quarterback Young and pass rushing linebacker Anderson Jr. made the seemingly no-brainer call to declare for the NFL draft, where both juniors could contend for the top spot.

Young, the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, and the two-time unanimous All-American Anderson announced their decisions to skip their senior seasons two days after leading Alabama to a 45-20 victory over Kansas State in the Sugar Bowl. Tailback Jahmyr Gibbs and safety Brian Branch also are heading to the NFL.

They endeared themselves to Crimson Tide faithful even more by not joining the ranks of bowl opt-outs among NFL prospects. Young passed for 321 yards and five touchdowns in New Orleans.

He and Anderson have graduated.

“I’m very proud of the way these guys have represented the program, not only the way they played on the field but the kind of character as people,” Saban said. “The academic success that they’ve had.

“These guys showed tremendous leadership and character to make a decision to play in the Sugar Bowl, which I think impacted the entire team with the example that they set.”

Young got a loud ovation from Alabama fans when he was substituted out for backup Jalen Milroe in the fourth quarter, and later got a salute from Kansas State coach Chris Klieman.

“That’s what college football is about. I was happy Bryce played,” Klieman said after the game. “That was really good for college football and really good for kids to see.”

Now, both are expected to be top-five draft picks and contenders for the No. 1 spot in April.

“It is pretty cool, but it just speaks volumes to the type of person Bryce is,” Anderson said. “He’s a competitor just like me. We have the same mindset, same mentality.

“I think that’s why we’re so close because we’re kind of the same person. It’s super exciting to see a teammate of yours in the same position as you that you know has worked his butt off every day.”

Added Young: “I think that really speaks volumes to the program and the players I’ve been blessed to play with.”

Young, who arrived from California as one of the nation’s top recruits, started the past two seasons after backing up current New England Patriots starter Mac Jones during a national championship run in 2020.

“Sitting my freshman year was something I hadn’t done before,” Young said. “It was hard. I’m a competitor. I wanted to play, but it was a blessing in disguise. Being able to learn from Mac and being able to watch that offense, that team, operate and being able to be there for every step of the way, it really helped me.”

He finished with 8,356 passing yards and 80 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions. Young passed for 3,328 yards and 32 touchdowns with five interceptions last season, making him the first Alabama quarterback with two 3,000-yard seasons.

Anderson is one of the top pass rushers in Alabama history and is even more decorated than Young. He is only the second two-time Nagurski Trophy winner and he also won both the Lombardi Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy as a junior.

He finished his three-year career with 34 1/2 sacks and 62 tackles for loss, behind only Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas in school history.

Anderson finished fifth in the 2021 Heisman voting after racking up 17 1/2 sacks and 34 1/2 tackles for loss. He had 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss this past season.

Gibbs, a Georgia Tech transfer, ran for 926 yards and seven touchdowns and gained 444 yards on a team-leading 44 catches. Anderson thinks any team that drafts Gibbs is “going to get a special guy.”

“He’s very good, very athletic, can move,” he said. “I’m super excited to see what his future is. His cuts are ridiculous. His top-end speed is crazy. Trying to catch him downhill is crazy.”

Branch, also a projected first-rounder, announced his decision on social media hours after the other three players declared for the draft in a news conference with Saban. He had 90 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions.

“I’ve developed so much since my freshman year and because of Alabama I’m confident that I’m prepared to take my game to the next level,” Branch said.

They leave a team that fell short of playoff and title expectations after losing to Tennessee and LSU on the final plays.

After three years together, Anderson could finally get a chance to actually sack Young in the NFL after having to hold back in practice.

“If I get the opportunity sometime next year, I’ve got to try to make sure I talk a little smack to him when I do it,” he said.

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.